(August 1, 2019 – Plano, TX) Despite missing a few of their firearms, the Spirits (35+) put one together Thursday night and that one included a game with pitching, defense and offense. Patrick Bilgere remained hot from the plate, picking up another pair of RBIs as did Travis Hitzeman, and the Spirits offense was able to out-muscle a younger and stacked Thunderbirds offense on their way to a 6 to 5 victory Thursday night at Graham Field.
The Thunderbirds started fast with a pair of runs in the top half of the first off of Spirits starting pitcher, Jonathan Duran, who was fortunate to have a short memory from the team’s outing the prior week against the Cardinals. The game remained 2 to 0 until the top half of the fourth when the birds rallied for another pair of runs to earn a 4 to 0 lead heading into the bottom half of the inning.
The Spirits offense finally came to life in its second trip through the order and that started with a single by lead off hitter, Cliff Brade. Brade quickly swiped second and Eric McPherson followed up by drawing a walk off of starter, Brad Bode and the Thunderbirds decided to turn to Brent Smerczynski to stave off any comeback ideas. The plan appeared to backfire, however as the Spirits continued base access as Stacy Scott also drew a walk. Brade was then able to score on a passed ball and a single by Hitzeman scored McPherson to cut the lead in half. Scott was tagged out trying to move to third as there was confusion on the base paths due to an extra ball laying in foul territory. With one one and one out, Shawn Lee followed up with a single to move Hitzeman to third. Lee stole second and Bilgere played hero with a single good enough to score both runners and to tie the ball game. Bilgere would advance to second after David Tipton drew a walk and a single by Chris Lewis gave the Spirits the lead before Earl German flew lined out and Lewis was caught taking a step off of first.
The Thunderbirds rallied to regain the lead in the fifth inning on a double by Nathaniel Larmen, but the Spirits fought back in the bottom half of the inning as Brade reached on a one-out error and moved to second after McPherson singled. Scott also singled to load the bases and a sacrifice fly by Hitzeman scored Brade to give the Spirits the lead for good.
Duran and his defense were able to hold the Thunderbirds back despite a pair of singles in the sixth and after the team went down in order in the bottom half of the inning, the picked up right where they left off after allowing Bo Vaculick to board with one our by drawing a walk. Ron Short then singled to put two on with one out and a fielder’s choice that squeed Short at second and allowed Petty to reach to put runners on the corners kept the final inning tense for both teams. Duran was able to get Mclane Hansen to fly out to end the game and picked up the complete-game win for the Spirits.
The squad will return to action next week as they host league-leading Modoc on Graham Field starting at 6:30PM. Click here for schedule details.